By John Sheka Popay Tarawalie
Donors and International Organizations spend millions of dollars every year trying to combat corruption. They do it because corruption has been shown to increase poverty and inequality while undermining trust in the government. Reducing corruption is essential to improve public services and strengthen the social contract between citizens and the state.
The battle against corruption should be everyone’s responsibility. At an individual level, we should strive to make it difficult for the corrupt to thrive by blowing the whistle on those that steal from taxpayers or abet the malpractice.
The State agencies should also ensure that corrupt individuals have nowhere to hide their ill-gotten wealth by seizing assets and freezing bank accounts held both locally and abroad.
Speedy and meticulous investigations would ensure there are no loopholes for the culprits to exploit during legal proceedings against them.
Public officers who collude with tenderpreneurs should also face the music by paying for the losses that taxpayers incur due to their negligence and unethical conduct.
The push for determining cases related to corruption pressure on the Judiciary to ensure that suspects on trial do not buy time and further waste public resources on never-ending ligation while they remain scot-free.
The onus is now on the courts to act decisively on corruption cases and ensure that the economic crime becomes a costly affair for those found guilty to deter rampant theft of public funds.
The consequences of corruption are glaringly disturbing with the obvious outcomes of not only retarding development but even reversing gains achieved by a country. Corruption has therefore become one of the most vicious practices to combat in emerging nation states across the world.
Corruption is not a perception but a wholesome reality. The tendency to view corruption as a perception compounds the difficulty of the obvious efforts to combat the practice. Arguably, it is difficult to provide the evidence on a corrupt practice and as a result corruption can be narrowly seen as mostly non-evidenced based. This is why the numerous corruption perception barometers are heavily contestable. In the end the results are disowned by the leadership of suspecting countries.
Sierra Leone is a complete victim of the outrageous consequences of corruption. It is therefore an obvious fact that corruption and corrupt practices have not only stifled the development potentials of the country but have astronomically reversed the national gains. Sierra Leone is characteristically poor and corrupt. Poverty is an antecedent to corruption in the same way corruption is to poverty. Brutally speaking, Corruption in Sierra Leone is both an outcome of poverty as it is an antecedent to poverty. The intriguing paradox is that corruption triggers poverty while poverty accelerates corruption. Admittedly, eradicating poverty will end corruption; ending corruption through collective efforts will end poverty and accelerate prosperity. This is the crossroads and the fundamental challenge is where to start and how to start.
Conventionally speaking, corruption is a vice with criminal characteristics but do Sierra Leone judge corruption as a cultural wrong?
I am tempted to think that Sierra Leoneans see corruption as a normal cultural practice, a way of life and an alternative source of livelihood in a chronically deprived and poor country where securing a sustainable livelihood is mostly unattainable. This is undoubtedly where the fight against corruption takes a mockery paradox: fighting against that which you believe in, thrive in and benefit from. If indeed corruption where a vice but consistent practice over generations and with not very serious consequences to occasionally spotted perpetrators, it becomes a normal abnormality.
Sierra Leoneans believe that people in highly placed or strategic offices “must make it”. Few Sierra Leoneans who stem the tide of corruption while in high offices and ended in later life as ordinary people are blamed and condemned for not “making it” while in office. They will not be treated as heroes of classical honesty and integrity but as people that did nothing when in office. So this is a society where corruption is celebrated as being smart; while integrity is calculated as being lazy and unproductive.
The Anti-Corruption Commission is an obvious hope in the fight against corruption. The efforts of the Commission to combat corruption since its inception have been laudable. However, much is needed to prop and support the ACC outfit in its drive to drive corruption from Sierra Leone. Critics of the ACC think that the Commission is mostly focused on petty thieves, leaving the industrial thieves to thrive.